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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

60                     Writing and Literature
between the Sinaitic form d and the Phoenician ) is neatly
bridged over. A last discovery to be mentioned is the most
important of all, since it emanated from Shechem, nearly as
far north as Samaria (PI. I, fig. 5). On the Shechem plaque
we again have the human head supposed to be rhb, and the
zigzag for mem, reduced to a form uncommonly like a Greek m;
if the sign twice seen to the left of the head is really akpb, it
resembles the Greek and Latin forms more than it does the
Phoenician. Archaeologists seem agreed in assigning the plaque
to about the same time as the Lachish dagger.
Observe now what these discoveries in Philistia and Palestine
have revealed. In the first place we find the Sinai script creeping
up in the direction of Phoenicia, and obviously wide-spread in
its use during the centuries preceding 1200 B.C. In the second
place we can trace at Tell el-Duweir a gradual reduction of
pictorial to non-pictorial letters, the latter bearing an ever
closer resemblance to Phoenician. The difficulties of translation
still remain a serious obstacle, but the Palestinian discoveries
have very greatly enhanced the likelihood of the Serabit theory.
Why then have scholars of the calibre of Bauer and Dussaud,
not to mention others, so resolutely set their faces against that
theory ? The failure to produce satisfactory translations of the
Sinai texts has undoubtedly been a powerful factor, and the wild
speculations of some of my successors have not unnaturally
created an anti-Serabit prejudice. A more solid reason, how-
ever, was afforded by Montet's discovery of the sarcophagus
of King Ahiram at Byblus in 1923. Since fragments of two
vases bearing the name of Harnesses II (1292-1223 B.C.) were
found in the same tomb, the writings on this sarcophagus were
at once hailed as the oldest Phoenician inscriptions extant; see
Plate I, fig. 6. Not only were they translatable without any
great difficulty, but also the forms of the letters^ closely resembled
those of the other earliest Phoenician monuments, though none
of the latter could be dated earlier than the end of the tenth